I was listening to public radio in the car the other morning, not because I don’t like music, but because the fancy navigation system befuddles me with its array of options and endless data feeds.
“Hello, Master, are you sure you want to listen to rap music? It’s not on your favorites list. May I suggest a caffeine-free caramel latte while I locate an appropriate channel? Remember to slow down for the school zone ahead.”
The radio host was interviewing the author of a book titled, Naked Statistics: Stripping the Dread from the Data. Of course I was intrigued—it had the word “naked” in it. The naked truth is, middle age has little affect on certain Pavlovian effects. I’m conditioned. The hook worked. I listened.
I always loved statistics (except for my .025 Little League batting average). It was high school algebra I dreaded. When asked, for example, which of two trains traveling in different directions at different speeds would reach the station first, I was more interested in knowing which one carried the long-legged Borah High School dance team. Who cares if it arrived a little late? Team or no team, those classes that required a slide rule were dreadfully intimidating.
Anyway, statistics were cool, as in, on average, “How many Bonneville High School students does it take to screw in a light bulb?” (I went to the other school.) The answer of course was zero. Those farm kids didn’t have electricity. You see, you need the important facts. Continue reading →